Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

It is hard to believe that 2011 has come to a close but it really has. At the end of the year I always like to reflect on the year that has just flown by. I wish I could say the year of 2011 has been full of lazy days laying in a backyard hammock.... but I can't .... for one, Greg just got this little gift for Christmas and for two, we have a busy life! Busy would be the word to describe the year of 2011-

Busy balancing two full time working parents and two full time silly girls!
Busy with grad school and pre-school and a big LA license test for the hubs.
Busy with birthdays and vacations- perfection!
Busy with sick children and at times, brokenness.
Busy with holidays and family traditions.
Busy with dinners with friends.
Busy creating memories and taking care of each other through it all!

Thankful to be busy with the people I love the most and hoping for a relaxing 2012.
Next year I promise to relax more, and be busy less by....

*spending more quiet moments with my husband of almost 7 years (just 8 more days).
*finishing grad school (in May)
*enjoying the small things that create memories for my family- art projects, cooking together, game playing, movie nights, playing make believe, taking walks, backyard camp outs, and more
*continue to memorize scripture with Ivy and teach her about Jesus' love (still learning myself)
*take life one. day. at. a. time.

Here's to a new year with more lazy nap times in this hammock with the greatest husband ever!

Friday, December 23, 2011

How about a toy, sweet girl?

Tula is a girl on the move. She runs from one end of the house to the other and doesn't slow down long enough to play. She climbs on anything "climbable" and she is really into balancing on things not meant be balanced on. She runs, rolls, spins, and flops onto any big pile of fluff. But toys.... she does not really do toys.

If Tula stops long enough to "play" it is not with toys. She likes to unload the drawers, unpack the pantry, and undecorate the Christmas tree. She likes to stack containers, throw lids, and hide ornaments. But she doesn't do toys.

Ivy is trying to teach her to play- with toys, that is. Mommy and Daddy are working hard to show her how to pretend- with toys, that is. Our house is like a little girl section of a toy store... seriously! And we want our girl to "sit nicely and play- with toys" isn't that what girls do??!! It is definitely how Ivy played.... but Tula is not Ivy, she is Tula and we have heard more than once that she is "our baby boy!" And our baby boy, Tula Belle, does not sit and play, she runs and destructs and gives Mama lots of mini-heart attacks every day.

So it brings us to Christmas time- and although we are rejoicing that Tula really "wants" nothing, that is part of the fun! So we tried to find some FUN, NEW, ACTIVE Tula toys. We are really wanting to get her sold on this "sit nicely and play" thing but we will have to see. We will see if the gifts that Nana Claus and Santa Claus bring are good enough for our girl~ I have my doubts, but I am going to remain hopeful!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Fun

There are so many memories created in the month of December for our family. I feel like it is a very busy month but so much of the busy-ness is FUN so I am not complaining! It is a time of year full of traditions (new and old) and full of time spent with friends and extended family. Here are just a few of the things my girls have been enjoying this month!

A Gingerbread birthday party to celebrate Ivy's friend, Addy's, 4th birthday! Definitely a perk of being a Christmas Eve baby~ what a fabulous party idea :)

Rob the elf!! This tradition has been more fun than ever this year :) This is the first year that Ivy gets up looking for Rob's new spot. Rob has had many adventures this year thanks to some great internet ideas! He has made snow angels, been caught swinging from the ceiling fan, made a mess with toilet paper, paper towels, and kleenexes, and delivered marshmallows (dubbed "snowman poop") to our girls! Tula has been in on the action too- even saying "BOB!!" when she sees the elf and then cackling with the funniest Tula laugh. The magic of this season is so fun!

Making Christmas cookies with friends! This year Ivy and Abby were excited to be part of the baking process from beginning to end.... they mixed the ingredients, rolled the dough, picked their own cookie cutters, spread the icing and decorated until they were content! They had a great time being little chefs and enjoying a bite from time to time :)

Tula woke up from her nap just in time to join in and decorate and then devour a Christmas tree in minutes :)

Ivy was invited to attend a "Santa Claus" party and it was so fun! She acted so big amongst the "big kids." She made two ornaments, sang Christmas songs, and then listened to the guest of honor read the Christmas story from the Bible and then Twas the Night Before Christmas. Then it was another chat with Saint Nick for Ivy... the second of the season!

She was sure to ask the man in red for a bigger kitchen for her and Tula to share.... the current kitchen is too small for two "cookers!"

Overall, this month has been a blast and ending it with a two week long vacation just adds to my happiness! I love this time of year! :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Redshirting- My Own Little Debate

To plain red shirt her or not.... a teacher versus a mommy.
From the moment I heard Ivy's due date - August 3rd (she arrived a bit early) I had plans. I had plans to red shirt her for kindergarten. Without a doubt in my mind, I was not going to send her to school until she was 6. Have I totally lost you.... if you are wondering what is red shirting? Find out here.

I am a teacher and as a teacher this is something that I am PASSIONATE about. School is different than it was when we were little. Kindergarten is no longer a year to sing the Letter People songs, eat a snack of graham crackers and juice, do some pretend play, and go home at lunch to take a nap. Kindergarten has expectations of leaving reading and by the end of first grade you need to be reading proficiently. There is a lot of pressure put on children to start writing, memorize math facts, do homework, and sit nicely for nearly 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Not to mention, the pressure kids have as they become middle, high schoolers, and college students- and being older and more mature usually puts them at an advantage. In my life, as a teacher I have had my fair share of students who weren't ready in some way- academically or socially- and usually their birthday was the culprit.

I know, I know.... there are exceptions to everything and I have had other students who's birthdays were late who did fine. They had friends, they didn't struggle academically, and in fact without peaking at their birth date I would have never known. But those are not the kids who stick with me, I think of kids who cry when mom leaves them at the door, kids who's school anxiety is so extreme, kids who struggle to master letter sounds or remember the b's from their d's... and I just remember thinking if only they had another year. If only they could be a kid a little longer- what a gift! So that is what I wanted to offer Ivy- without a doubt- until about a month ago.

The Great Debate Read more about this huge educational issue at Parent's magazine!

copying words from a book- a favorite Ivy activity

I never had plans to red shirt Ivy due to anything academic. She has always loved to listen to books, learned to write and spell her name before she turned two, has a great attention span to sit and color or draw, and asks all the time "What does that say?" or "How do you spell _____?" I knew that she was curious and interested in learning but that wasn't my hangup. It was social. She had only been at an in home sitter until this year. We kept her in the nursery at church because she didn't stop crying until she was 3! She has had lots of play dates, birthday party adventures, or trips to story time at the library- but structured "school" was not introduced until this year. Which was all part of my plan- being a little kid for as long as possible!

So here was my plan- send her this year to preschool to Jessamine Montessori and let it be a "trial run" of sorts. Based on our history with things like the nursery I thought it might take a bit. She started a new school where she really didn't know anyone- the kids or the teachers. I expected tears, extreme behaviors (shy or wild), and plenty of time outs of knowing next year we will be totally ready for this! But then she has had NO issues. She loves school, she has learned a ton, and she has good little friends in her 3 to 5 year old class- they are all 5! The teachers knew my plans of keeping her there next year, so right before Thanksgiving they had a little chat with me about her "readiness." I blew it off and thought- I am the teacher and I know best, I am not sending her, NO MATTER what!

Then I started asking around and really looking at Ivy and her experiences. I talked to the children's leaders at church and some of my teacher friends who share this age passion but also know Ivy and know Ivy well. I had a real "parent teacher conference" with Ivy's teacher. I watched her with younger kids and older kids. I took her to events where she had to be a big girl and sit and listen. More than anything I had to look at Ivy and her (at times) BIG personality and the fact that this year she has already had 5 days a week ALL DAY preschool. Ivy has no where else to go that I can afford or that works for a family with two working parents and no way to transport to half day kindergarten programs. Her only next step is kindergarten. And my mommy gut started kicking in.

Friends, I lost sleep. A lot of sleep. And God has had to hear about this a bit too much!

Being a mom and having PLANS is hard. Kids rock those plans, being a working mom can rock those plans, finances can rock those plans, and sometimes we have to be willing to change. But it has been tough. I don't like changing my mind. I am a lady on a mission and a change of plans makes me sick to my stomach. This is an issue that I had to realize I had to separate my mommy beliefs of my teacher beliefs. If tomorrow the date to start kindergarten changed to "you have to be 5 by July 1st" would I be mad- NO! I would jump for joy, because in my teacher heart, I think that would be way better for kids. But this hasn't changed and I don't know that there is even any talk of this in Kentucky.

So for now I have to go with the facts and the current laws. I have to go with the experiences Ivy has had and the limitations I face for next year. I have to go into this prayerfully and trying to see God's big picture with presenting us with this new mindset for Ivy. I have to embrace my child's demeanor and put in her a place where she can continue to grow rather than regress.

But at this point, unless we start to see things differently, my big girl will be a kindergartner next year. And that, my friends, is where the real heart break lies.... I was not ready for that. I was certain that I had another year before we would go to school. But for now, I feel like this is what is best for my girl!

Ivy's Take: She is excited!!

So here is our conversation:
Mommy: Ivy, we need you to help us with something. Daddy and I are really praying about you and deciding if you are going to go to kindergarten when you are 5 or when you are 6.
Ivy: You already said, when I'm 6. (Can you tell I share my planning with her?)
Mommy: Yes, but you are doing so great in preschool so we are just trying to decide what to do.
Ivy: Stay at my school. (Someone else doesn't like change.)
Mommy: So at your school, Mrs. Hendren, has different activities for the 3's, 4's, and 5's. So what kind of things do you see your friends doing that you aren't doing yet?
Ivy: Well, nothing. Now I can do all the 100's stuff so I can do everything. (Has recently mastered counting to 100 and is oh so proud!!)
LONG PAUSE..... And I see Ivy's funny face and just knowing she is about so show her wittiness.
Ivy: Well, I know! I guess they can teach me to count to a million!! (And now she is cracking up!)

And that helped us to make our decision.... as we shook our heads and prayed about our sweet girl. We hope that God will continue to guide us and give us peace about HIS big plans!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

a LONG wait....

Ivy is four and a half.... and apparently by four you want to be in charge of all things fashion related! We have to negotiate with all things fashion- shoes, clothes, socks, even panties. And we can't even start to talk about hair accessories- Ivy has big plans! For the most part with a little game of you pick, I pick Ivy is dressed in a mommy approved outfit and is ready for her day :)

But hair is harder for me to fight~ I love it short! It looks absolutely precious, it is easy (no tangles), and I know how to do short hair. But our girl, the planner she is, had other ideas. So this is the third time that she has expressed interest in long hair. She specifically says she wants to grow it out like Esie :) She adores her Aunt Chelsea! So, maybe the third time is a charm, and we have gone several months without a hair cut and we FINALLY have a pony tail!


She is so proud, but it is still not where she wants it. Every morning and every night she looks in the mirror and shouts, "It grew today!!!" It has most definitely grown, but it is still taking her a long time. I keep telling her that growing your hair has a long wait!

Lesson learned: Ivy and I are working together to "style" her newly long hair and the biggest lesson, a dose of patience for us both!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The most wonderful time of the year....

I really love December!

I love Christmas songs...

Christmas trees...

Christmas decorations....

Christmas lights....

Christmas pajamas...

Christmas traditions!

I love that we celebrate the birth of our king in a BIG way!

I am thankful for the gifts of joy and hope that Jesus brings this season!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

15 Months.... So big!

So it is that time again.... Tula went to the doctor for her 15 month check up!
Let's see how our little missy is growing :)

Tula Belle
15 months
30 inches (37%)..... which I believe is VERY inaccurate....
Weight: 19 lbs 2 oz (4%)

So Tula is still little.... really, really little! I don't think the nurse's length measurement was correct- not blaming her- Tula is a mover and very difficult to measure. But I don't believe she could grow a bit over 3 inches in 3 months and still be wearing all the same clothes. I think you can see 3 inches of growth on a 2 foot frame :) But anywho...

Other than her little bit of growth, lots has changed over the last 3 months! I feel like between 12 months and 18 months a whole new little person appears. They are learning and mimicking at a rapid pace and you never know what their next step is. So here is a little about Tula Belle at 15 months~

Pretending..... Tula is a girl after her Nana's heart and she learned to apply lipstick at a young age and she is good at it! She loves to get it out of her play purse and put it on, over and over and over again. Absolutely hilarious :)

Climbing.... I don't think this word can even describe our little monkey. Tula gives me a heart attack at least once a day because I am shocked to see what she is getting into. I know I have never had a boy of my own, but both my dr. and sitter said Tula is my boy! She is wild, running and climbing anything she can. Tula's first big climb was on her little rocking chair. She has been climbing to sit in it for several months but one day she had to go a little further. As I am putting laundry away I turn to find the chair turned with it's back against the crib and Tula standing on the 2nd rung looking into her bed!!!! Seriously? She is a dare devil!

Outdoors.... Tula loves being outside! She cries every day when we get out of the car and come into the house. (If the girl would wear a hat we could continue to play outside!) She especially loves chalk. The little artist carries a piece in each hand and motors around Ivy's art work. Every now and then she will crouch down and give a little chicken scratch on the driveway, and then she is off running to find another perfect spot for a masterpiece!

Food.... Tula loves FOOD! Her favorites are bananas and she eats one everyday! She stands at the counter by the fruit bowl and begs for "nan" over and over again. She eats all the table food that we eat and out eats her sister at every meal. With only 2 little bottom teeth, we have to cut things up pretty small but she does a good job getting it down! Tula finally weaned to strictly whole milk three weeks ago. Her belly seems to finally be able to tolerate it without problems. She loves milk and is not a fan of juice AT ALL. Tula also has just learned how to help blow on her food and that is what she is doing in the picture. If she takes a hot bite she will start blowing to let us know that it is a bit too hot for her little mouth!

Sick.... Sad but true- but Tula has learned how to be sick over the last few months. We have just about everything from fever viruses, to blisters on the throat, to throwing up, to ear infections, to the croup- if the germ has been around we have had it! A sick day for Tula means lots of sleep, lots of cuddles, and learning new sick behaviors. Tula has mastered a fake cough and pretending to blow her nose! I could eat her up :) Look at those pitiful pouty lips- precious!

Words... Tula is a girl of few words and in this house that is a blessing (for Daddy)! Ivy and I do plenty of talking! Haha :) But Tula has a few favorites:

* "Yeah" that was Tula's first word and still most common! She has been answering questions with a "yeah" or a head shake for about a while... and every time her answers make me laugh!
* "Da-da"- Daddy won this battle by a long shot- but to give Mama some points she called both of us "Da-da" :) In the picture she is pointing to our family picture and yelling "Da-da!"
* "Mum"- Yes, my 15 month old calls me Mum! And it is not okay, so I am totally encouraging the baby talk of Mama or Mommy.... however, for Tula, less is more and she is sticking to "Mum!"
* Tula speaks the occasional Chinese to some of her favorite friends- Jack the cat, her cow toys, Minnie Mouse, and Ivy!

We love our little Tula Belle :) Her adventurous spirit and tight hugs keep us going! I wish I could push pause but since I know it won't work, I will enjoy all her little changes and embrace each new stage as it comes. :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

ivyisms.... they never stop

Ivy and Jack the one guy who she ALWAYS loves.... despite a rotten mood!

Every now and then I have to stop and write these things down. Ivy is funny... and sometimes I mean silly funny and sometimes I mean bad funny. Lately, it has been that latter- so I try to discipline her and then I have to stuff my face in a pillow and laugh. So I am writing these 4 year old Ivyisms down because before I know it she will be more mature (haha-probably not) and these will be a thing of the past :)

After a long day of timeouts....
Greg: Ivy, I hate days like today. I hope that tomorrow the good Ivy is back and we can have so much fun.
Ivy: (With not even a smirk) I'm afraid the good Ivy is on vacation for a while.
Greg: Hmmmm, I hope she comes back soon.
Ivy: We'll see.....

After hearing Ivy talk very rude to Tula and some a friend....
Mommy: Ivy, I don't like the way I heard you talking. You had a mean tone and were being kind of bossy.
Ivy: Well, I learned to talk that way from you.
Mommy: (Eyes bulging, mouth opened, no words)
Ivy: Like you say, "Ivy, get on your shoes" (very calm and sing/songy) and then you say, "IVY! GET YOUR SHOES ON RIGHT NOW!"
Mommy: That is a way that mommies talk to their children when they don't listen. Not a way to talk to friends or Tula.
Ivy: Will I be your child when I am 10?
Mommy: Yes, mam. Even when you are 35.
Ivy: Does Nana still talk to you like that? (She was trying to catch mama in a lie!)
Mommy: Yes, when she needs to she does!

During a sinus infection....
Daddy: Ivy, let me help you blow your nose one last time. (at pre-school)
Ivy: You have got to be kidding! I am NOT blowing my nose a school!
Daddy: Why? That's silly!
Ivy: That's not silly, it's embarrassing!

After Ivy and Daddy jam session on the way to school....
Daddy gets Ivy out of the car still singing and NO one is in the parking lot around them.
Ivy: (Giving Daddy glaring eyes...) Stop, singing, we are at school and that is embarrassing!

Wanting to play with JUST Mommy....
Ivy: Can you put Tula away?
Mommy: What?
Ivy: Can you put Tula away in her bed for a while?
Mommy: Well, no, I am excited to play with you and Tula. This is what you do when you have 2 kids.
Ivy: That's why you don't need any more kids? OKAY?
(She has changed her mind on this subject many times.)

Shooooo..... they never stop! :) At least they are all things that have had enough time pass that we are all smiles around here now.

Compassionate Ivy giving kisses to Jack

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving's Thankful Thursday

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I am thankful every day of the year but today (or this whole month) is really a time that I really think about all I am thankful for. My family has had lots of dinner table conversations about thankfulness and my students have had many share squares and table talks about all we are thankful for. There has definitely been a theme of thanks all month long in my life!

I am thankful for....
God. Wow! Where would we be without God and the continuous grace and forgiveness that we are offered through His son every single day. I heard that a student of mine (this is a first for me) doesn't believe in God or Jesus. Absolutely heart breaking! So I have prayers that seeds will be planted in him this year. I have already eavesdropped on my missionary second graders hard at work and I know nothing is impossible through Him. Teaching is a calling that God put on my heart and while I can't minister to him directly, I can love him and I can answer questions honestly. I am excited to watch God work in this situation this year.

God was recently revealed to Greg and I through the book The Shack. Oh my, was this a healing read for my family. After reading this, I do have a different picture of God, as Papa, as a comforter and healer. As one that is far from legalistic but seriously wants us to trust him and let him fully love us. We are letting him do this. We are allowing him to work on people who have hurt us. We are trusting that we can forgive others and let him do the tough stuff. I am thankful for the words of William Young and biblical picture he painted through this story.
My husband. He is my rock and my soul mate. He is my partner... in the fun and the not so fun parts of life. He is also a father.... in the fun and the not so fun. He is the lunch packer and the bath giver. He is the grass mower and the weed picker. He is the man who teaches my girls to love all that nature has to offer. He is the calm in the storm. He is the reliever of my stress. He is my TV buddy. He is my tattoo guru. He is the one who lessens our footprint on this earth. He is the artist and the creator. He is the do-it-yourself-er. He is the subtle make you laugh til you cry commenter. He is the one who humbles me and praises me. He is my husband and my best friend. And for him.... I am so thankful.

My children. They are a joy every single day. I still pinch myself to think of my healthy girls and to know that I am entrusted to be their mama. I am thankful for the memories we create, the lessons they teach me, and the never ending laughter. While every age and stage has it's difficult times or tough conversations parenthood is still such a blessing. And that picture makes me more than ready for the summer and a wonderful family vacation.

Family. Having a family who is open and loving is something that we are thankful for every single day. My parents teach us so much- they are role models in the way they have raised us. They have shown us the importance of putting your marriage as a top priority. They have been married 31 years and that is impressive. And their marriage isn't old or stale, it has spark. They do fun things together, they laugh together, and they have supported one another through raising a family, dealing with loss, and stressful jobs. Such an example of true love. My parents also work hard to teach us God's love. They lead by example in the way they give to others. They are disciplined about many things in life but a relationship with Christ is something they never skimp on. I am thankful to be their daughter, I am thankful that my husband as become a second son to them, and I am thankful that my girls will always know they are loved by Nana and Pops.
My parents aren't all I am thankful for! My brother is amazing and I am thankful for him. If you would have asked me if I was thankful to have a brother when I was 8- it would have been questionable. (I wasn't very nice!) But by the time he reached high school he was someone I really looked up to and loved to talk with. He couldn't have chosen a more perfect bride. Chelsea is better than I could have hand picked, and we knew that almost instantly! I am thankful for their presence in our lives and the impressions that they make on my children. And I can't wait to be an aunt to their children someday :)

My home. My home is not perfect and it is usually not in tip top shape, but it is a home. If the walls could talk they would share our laughter and dance parties. They would tell of our moments of sadness and stress. They would paint a picture of my family. And that is what makes our house a home.

A home is where toys need to be strewn about and kids need to playing. It is a place for imaginations to grow and art work to be created. A home is where sisters become best friends and good character in our girls is formed.

A home is not about perfect floors and kitchen tables without sticky spots. A home is not about furniture so shiny you can see your reflection. A home is not about being able to lay on the floor without cat hair and graham cracker crumbs. A home is to be lived in, and a to create a happy family. And my home is definitely that!

My job, my students. I am a teacher and I am thankful for that. I am thankful for my students (this is sweet, hilarious, Turner- I know his mama won't mind that I stole her picture). I really work for my students and that is that. I do not work because I am passionate about change in education- even though somethings do need change. I work because I love those 25 faces that look to me Monday through Friday to be their consistent, nurturing, exciting teacher. And my classroom is like my home away from home.... and oh, if those walls could talk. They would tell stories just like the walls in my home.

They would tell stories of change in students- like this card- seriously unbelievable change in my 2nd graders. The walls would tell stories of on fire learning and blooming of new friendships. They would tell a tale of character building and tough conversations. The walls would tell about confidence, hard work, and pride. I love my job. I love who it makes me become at 7:55 when my kiddos walk through the doors and I love who it allows me to be when I walk out before it is dark outside, plenty of time to go home and be a wife and a mom. I love that God chose me to teach, and through a series of ups and downs he helped me to fully embrace that calling.

I have so much to be thankful for and this is just a snipet.... because let's be honest.... it is more like a novel! But I could go on and on and on. I hope that today you find yourself surrounded by love and thankful for the gifts in your life.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!